Category Archives: Real Ale

Making new memories at Masons

I celebrated my birthday a couple of  weeks ago and as a special treat, my Hubby arranged for us to have a weekend away at Masons campsite in Appletreewick (Wharfedale). This was particularly special to me as I have so many special memories of camping at Masons as a child. Slight cheat, we decided not to “camp”. To be honest we don’t have any of the kit needed so for convince and luxury we “glamped”. We initially experienced glamping at Camp Katur (see Onesies and Wellibobs), this time we decided to take the Hula Doll. Hula and Mark haven’t been camping before so I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to have a taste of it. Mark booked a “Rent-a-tent” experience, our Camp Katur glamp had been in a wooden pod which was cosy and romantic but not really camping. We thought this might be a bit closer to the real thing still with a good measure of home comforts.

The last time I visited Masons was in 2001 when I was a University student (first time around). Back then, the on-site facilities were basic but practical. Ever popular and full of charm, Masons family run business nestled in a valley along the river Wharfe, perfectly situated for local pubs and neighbouring villages Burnsall and Grassington. The business now has new owners who have brought Mason’s a bit more up-to-date. It still has charm, but the facilities and whole experience is far more luxurious. The shower block is spacious and modern and is minus the large swathes of spider webs that I remember (the ladies even has GHD straighteners if you forget your own!).

Our tent was a large canvas structure raised on a wooden platform. Immediately prior to our visit, there had been torrential rain for two hours; the wooden platform kept our tent dry and comfortable and avoided the boggy ground. I can’t imagine it would’ve been much fun trying to put up a tent in the mud. A wood burning stove provided warmth if needed, which we did eventually need as Holly had a stumble while we played in the river and got a bit soggy. With an electric hookup, our accommodation was warm, cosy with a good dash of luxury and creature comforts.  Everything was provided for us, the only thing that we needed to take was our clothing, bedding and food. Our only criticism was that the outdoor awning that provided shelter over our cooking / eating area appeared to be significantly smaller than some of the other glamping pitches, which was a limitation in bad weather. Masons is visited on a weekend by a local business called the appletreevan which sells the most wonderful home-baked goodies and delicious coffee. It rained again on the day we went home, their hot chocolate certainly did warm our cockles.

On my birthday, Mark treated me to a full English (breakfast) cooked outside, Holly happily opened my gifts for me and we planned our day ahead. As Wharfedale is one of my all time favourite places in the world, there were a couple of places that I wanted to re-visit. First off, we visited Kilnsey Park. I loved it as a little one and remember trying to catch fish in the trout pond. Holly enjoyed exploring the nature trail and trying to spot the red squirrels. They have a fantastic restaurant on site and customers are able to buy fresh trout that is farmed on site. Following this, we took a trip to Grassington. We stopped for lunch in a lovely little tea room called the Whimsical Cottage. With reasonably priced delicious home cooked food, it made for a relaxing afternoon. After a meander around the shops, we headed back to the site to get ready for dinner. We decided to go to the Craven Arms and Cruckbarn, this was recommended by the owner of Kilnsey Park who said it was the best pub in the dale. We weren’t disappointed. The food and service were fantastic. There was a good variety of traditional dishes with a modern twist and plenty for children (without the bog standard chicken nuggets and junk). Mark enjoyed trying out local real ales on draught.

Overall, we had a fantastic weekend. It was a beautiful taster for Mark and Holly to experience my beloved Yorkshire dales and more specifically Wharfedale. There’s no getting around it, glamping is expensive. However, it is so nice that we haven’t needed to invest any money in the initial outlay of camping. We literally turned up and enjoyed the weekend. As it started to rain as we were packing up, it was particularly wonderful that we didn’t need to pack away a wet tent. Holly had her first experience of camping and she absolutely loved it. We would definitely visit again and look forward to planning our next trip.

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York Brewery- Real ale

As you know we’ve been trying real ales recently, this is just a quick post about two ales that we tried from York Brewery. Despite York being an ancient city in our country’s history, the brewery is only 14 years old. But is becoming increasingly popular with its award-winning ales. This was the first time that we had tried any of the ales from York.Both beers, York Minster ale and Yorkshire terrier are golden. They both had the same “tasting notes” which were,

See – Golden

Smell – Orange zest, light hop

Taste – Clean, sharp, bitter

What we thought about York Minster – Quite aromatic, long deep distinctive flavour, mellow. Definitely taste the hops but not too much

What we thought about Yorkshire Terrier – It reminded us of a Yorkshire terrier, those feisty little dogs. It had a lager-esque taste about it. Quite gassy for a bitter. Refreshing in comparison to a traditional cask ale. I didn’t agree that it has smell of orange zest. However it definitely had a long hoppy aftertaste which lingered and became quite metallic.

They were both ok, but I think I would like to try something in a darker malt from this brewery, and to try the Yorkshire terrier again but on tap.

Family Day – Tropical World

Life can become incredibly busy sometimes and it’s quite easy to forget to take time out for you and the ones closest to you. Therefore, Mark and I have made an oath to have a “family day” at least once a month. This means that we keep the day free and plan to do something that is “Holly” centred.  This can sometimes take a little researching due to the weather.

However, Mark suggested that we take Holly to Tropical World. This worked out really well as it was very chilly when we woke up and I didn’t fancy staying outside all day.

Tropical World is situated in Roundhay which is North East Leeds. Growing up in North Leeds, our family used to go there all the time. It was weird taking Holly. Never did I think that I would be taking my own daughter one day.

The exhibit is separated by zones these are dry/arid, nocturnal and tropical it reminds me a bit of that television programme “Crystal maze” that was presented by Richard O’Brian. You can see a variety of different animals, reptiles, birds and insects (thankfully most of them behind glass). The butterfly house is the main attraction. There is quite an impressive collection of different species of butterfly which freely fly amongst the visitors. It’s quite amusing to watch people nervously ducking and diving to avoid the butterflies. Having said that, I had a small panic as one landed on my face (this amused Mark). Holly was very comfortable in the company of the butterflies and watched intently as they fluttered by her.

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There is plenty to see and it only takes approximately 30 minutes to go around all of the exhibits. This is quite a relief when you have a small child, mind you we didn’t read every piece of information presented to us. For a longer day out, you can visit the gardens that surround Tropical world and Roundhay Park is only a stones throw away.

Whilst this is a  lovely attraction, we have visited a similar place on the Isle of Anglesey. We found that the staff on Anglesey were more involved with visitors, teaching about the exhibits and bringing some of the animals out of their enclosures and handling them. You’re kind of left to just get on with it at Tropical World and are cattle prodded through a series of walkways and corridors which aren’t particularly wide in some places for prams and wheelchairs.

Although there could be some improvements, it’s a good day out for children of any age and there’s a fantastic gift shop for a wide price range. At the moment, they have a large selection of Eric Carle “Very Hungry Caterpillar” merchandise which we bought a couple of things from for Holly’s birthday.

We met up with some friends and went to The Roundhay Fox for lunch.The food was really good and reasonably priced. However, although we were told that our food would take 30 minutes after ordering, it felt like much longer than that. The high chairs were also filthy and I struggled to clean off the dried on food. There was also no fastenings on Holly’s to secure her in. Despite this, I’d like to visit again perhaps at a less busy time and enjoy some of their cask ales in front of the coal fire.

Copper Dragon Skipton- Real ale

I think as you get older, your palate continues to evolve. I don’t think that many people are born with a liking of red wine and espresso coffee! In recent years, Mark and I have developed a taste for Real Ale. We had both gone through our early 20’s on nights out consuming special student deals etc. I think that we got to a point that we started to really appreciate what we were drinking.

We live in Castleford which is home to T.Fawcett’s Maltsters and Malt Roasters. both processes fascinate me. (I know that won’t get everyone going!) However they are important because they allow the sugars in barley to ferment and produce alcohol and give beer its distinctive colour.

I first became intrigued by Copper Dragon as I saw one of their vehicles in Castleford. I wasn’t sure if they used T.Fawcett’s or if they were supplying a local pub. I also noticed that they had started to follow me on Twitter. They’re also based in Skipton Yorkshire. It was fate, I had to try their beer.

Sorry, this is an after drinking photo

We drank the beers from dark to light (darker roasted malt first)

Black Gold – what the brewer says

“Recipe recreated from restored brewing records from the 1800’s. The use of traditional coloured and roasted malts give a unique, rich and luscious flavour.”

What we thought – Hints of treacle and cinder toffee. Smooth, no aftertaste (not over hopped) rich and velvety. Dark but not black. Totally delicious. Would be lovely as the evenings creep in.

Best Bitter – what the brewer says

“A refreshing amber coloured Best Bitter brewed with English malt and hops creating a traditional session ale to suit all palates.”

What we thought – Easy drinking bitter with a trace of honey. This beer is exactly what is says on the bottle. I think if you’re not a huge fan of real ale this would be a good one to try. I could quite easily find a nice little pub and have a few of these.

Golden Pippin – what the brewer says

” A light refreshing blonde ale brewed using a variety of hop creating a citrus fruit flavour. Originally brewed as a seasonal ale, it has become such a favourite that it is now brewed all year round”

What we thought – this is a very summery drink, you can taste the hops with the kick coming after you’ve swallowed. It almost tingles on your tongue. Floral and citrusy. Very refreshing on a hot day. Slightly more bitter than the other two.

All of the beers were delicious, you can really taste the quality. Our favourite was Black Gold which surprised us as we don’t usually go for the darker ales. But this has changed our minds. I think we also preferred this as we drank it on a dark, damp and cold evening. I’m sure we’d prefer Golden Pippin in the summer on a steaming hot day. Would definitely recommend these they’re top class!

We’re hoping to review more Yorkshire real ales, please let us know if you have any suggestions for us.

Farmer Copley “Know what you’re eating?”

Mark and I had both lived in Leeds for the majority of our lives, that was until we got married. House prices were too expensive in our area so we looked a little further afield. After much searching, we found the perfect little house in Castleford. Now, it’s not the most affluent area due to the collapse of the mining industry but, being part of the five towns (Castleford, Pontefract, Knottingley, Normanton and Featherstone) we’re surrounded by agricultural farm land.

One of the farm shops local to us is Farmer Copley’s in Featherstone, which has an impressive array of awards including “Best Farm shop in Great Britain 2009/2010”

As you can see, it is quite an impressive building. It has been extended since we started visiting three and a half years ago. With the extension, they have a children’s play area with small plastic ride-on tractors, a new cafe called “Moo” which sells hot drinks, cakes, hot and cold sandwiches etc. I’ve  had lunch there and the food is excellent.

The shop sells a variety of local produce (local to Yorkshire) including beer from Copper Dragon, wine from Leventhorpe, cheese, chutney, jams, and vinegar from Wormersley etc and is beautifully presented.

Cheese counter

Meat counter

condiments etc

The main ethos of the shop is that it prides itself on the quality of its produce and that all of the meat is locally sourced. The beef is reared free range by Rob Copley. His website explains that he’s chosen specific breeds to ensure that the meat is of the highest standard. This shows in the price. It really is significantly higher than the supermarket. I bought some top side beef which was just under £12.00/kg with the local supermarket being £8.00/kg. The big difference is, I know exactly where the meat came from, that it’s free range and has been hung for 21 days. I think that we’re used to eating cheap meat in this country. I spoke to my mum about it, she said that she didn’t have nearly as much meat in her diet when she was young because of the cost, but it changed when supermarkets became popular and people stopped buying from the local butcher.

Also people are buying “expensive cuts” of meat on a regular basis and not using their imagination with cooking to purchase cheaper cuts of meat from an animal that has been well cared for. I suppose we live for convenience. I think if we want that, then we really need to consider the practices of intensively farmed animals. I’m a realist, I’m guilty of buying two chickens for £7 but I would never dream of not buying free range eggs! It’s difficult with country coming out of recession, being on maternity leave but, it does feel good when you’re eating meat that has been well cared for. Is it better, that we all do a little bit to work towards improving animal welfare, or that a few do everything? It might just be hypocrisy, but it makes me feel better if I do a bit when I can.

The only question I had, was about the way they label the standard of the animal eg free range, freedom food etc. Their website says that some of the chickens “are locally produced and well looked after” I asked what it meant. They said it was higher than RSPCA Freedom Food standard but not free range. I thinks it’s misleading to the consumer if you’re selling free range and none free range together and it’s  not clearly explained what “well looked after” means. I think there might be the misconception that it’s all free range. I also expect that if I’m buying a small chicken for £6 that it’s free range further fuelling the misconception. I also think for a company that prides itself on locally sourcing meat, it should be labelled which farm the meat came from.

Despite that, the beef was delicious, you could taste the quality. We also bought sausages, at the moment they’re my favourite, high meat content and perfectly seasoned. However, I will soon be visiting Swillington farm which is the equal distance from me as Farmer Copley’s and specialises in free range organic meat. I’ve checked their prices which are marginally higher. But I imagine that’s expected with organic meat. I just wonder if some of the prices of Farmer Copley’s are driven by overheads rather than the welfare of the animals. I’m looking forward to see if I can taste the difference (pun not intended!)